Digital ordering has become a hot topic for restaurants around the world. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic made online ordering a must-have, quick service restaurants (QSRs) recognized the value of online ordering tools. Digital restaurant orders have grown 23% annually since 2013, and it was projected that their volume would triple between 2019 and 2020.
Of course, those were pre-pandemic projections – and since lockdowns began, online ordering has skyrocketed. With customers hungry for remote ordering options, QSRs are facing pressure to accelerate their digital transformations and bring new, socially-distant safe ordering options to the table. It’s become more than a mere business strategy or new marketing approach; online ordering and mobile order ahead options have become a legitimate public safety tool.
In particular, businesses using the Square ecosystem may benefit from these types of solutions. As an affordable point-of-sale (POS) system, Square is ideal for businesses that want to keep overhead low and avoid investments in lengthy and expensive custom development processes. It’s a great system for QSRs – but up until recently, Square’s online ordering options were limited. But thanks to companies like Poppinpay, any QSR that uses Square can enjoy the benefits of dedicated online ordering portals or mobile ordering apps.
Let’s review each of these two ordering options and their benefits.
The Benefits of Online Ordering
First, we have online ordering through a website or portal. The more established of the two, online ordering has been around for decades – but only recently has it taken hold in the mainstream as a preferred ordering channel. In a 2019 survey conducted by QSR Magazine, 70% of customers expected a restaurant’s website to offer online ordering options.
But again, factor in the COVID-19 element and consider what modern consumers expect. In a world under pressure of stay-at-home and shelter-in-place mandates, it’s reasonable to assume that customers’ expectations would evolve in kind. These days, customers may avoid QSRs outright if they don’t offer some type of online ordering solution.
And when you stack up all the benefits of online ordering, it’s easy to see why it’s become so popular.
- It’s a responsible, remote ordering option. Any ordering solution that lets customers spend as little time inside the store as possible is a win these days. Online ordering is an easy way to give customers the means to patronize a business without the need for physical contact.
- It’s convenient. Rather than having to call a restaurant and place an order by phone, online ordering gives customers a hands-off way to make the purchase. For many, the freedom of placing orders online (and without needing to speak to an employee) is a great benefit.
- It’s informational. Customers love being able to browse a restaurant’s menu at their leisure. Ordering online gives them the freedom to browse without feeling the pressure of an employee’s eyes on them or holding up a queue. They can browse favorites or try new options, all leading to a notable increase in average order value. In the above QSR study, customers reported spending up to $5 extra on additional items when purchasing online.
- It provides valuable data. Everything is traceable online. QSRs that set up online ordering options can leverage tools to scrape user data on purchases and preferences. From there, it’s easy to leverage that information to create new initiatives and reinforce selling goals aligned with customers’ interests.
The Benefits of Mobile Ordering
Many of the above benefits apply to mobile ordering as well, but mobile ordering apps come with some unique advantages as well.
- It lets them order ahead from anywhere. A mobile channel makes it easy to reach customers beyond the traditional online ordering portals. Mobile order ahead apps are the best example, giving customers an on-the-go way to manage their entire transactions online. No matter if they’re at home, in their car, or out in public, they can browse your menu, pay for items, and even skip the line when they arrive for pickup.
- It enables curbside pickup. Curbside pickup is one of the hottest remote ordering options right now, giving customers and employees a way to hand-off food with minimal social contact. These solutions aren’t possible with traditional online ordering tools, but mobile ordering makes curbside pickup simple to implement.
- It lets customers move quickly through purchasing. Mobile ordering makes it easy for customers to place orders and get on with their day. This is particularly important for QSRs, many of whom receive repeat business from customers at regular intervals. When customers stop in for a quick bite before work or while running errands, you can’t afford delays. Solutions like mobile order ahead help them plan their trip, make their purchases, and overall, make it easier for them to incorporate your services in their day-to-day routine. For customers with limited time to waste, this ordering efficiency can be a competitive differentiator that makes them choose you over another QSR.
- It’s easy to integrate into loyalty programs. Mobile ordering apps can connect easily to your established Square Loyalty & rewards programs. It’s easy to keep track of customer purchases, points, and any discounts they’ve earned.
- It supports better team productivity. Solutions like mobile order ahead don’t only benefit customers; they’re great for your own teams as well. Mobile ordering apps give employees more information about incoming orders and helps them plan accordingly. With better time management, companies can increase throughput and reduce the amount of time each customer may need to wait.
Which Ordering Solution Is Better?
Both online ordering portals and mobile ordering apps bring great benefits to QSRs and customers alike – but which one is better?
Most companies start with an online ordering platform before progressing to a mobile ordering application, though in truth, companies need both to unlock the full potential of online ordering.
Online ordering and mobile ordering are related, but each serves a different ordering function for customers. Online portals offer the convenience of browsing/purchasing from home, while mobile ordering apps offer a way to place orders on the go and more easily work QSR purchases into routines. There’s some overlap in these two solutions of course, but think of their usage as a Venn diagram. You’ll have a small subsection of customers who use both, but there will inevitably be big markets on either side who prefer one over the other. Leveraging both solutions lets you capture as much of this market share as possible.
All-in-One Options for Square Businesses
And better yet, it’s easier than ever to integrate these solutions into Square-powered businesses. Solutions like Poppinpay offer an all-in-one option for online ordering and mobile order ahead solutions. The system makes it easy to set up a web portal for online orders as well as a branded mobile application with a direct connection to your Square POS. All orders, payments, and processing is done in-app through Square.
Of course, many companies already have an online ordering solution set up. If so, what better way to complement it than with a branded mobile app? As detailed above, mobile ordering apps bring new benefits to QSRs across marketing, promotion, and customer management. Loyalty program integration is only the beginning (though it’s an important benefit worth noting – according to one survey, 45% of respondents agreed that having access to mobile ordering and loyalty programs would encourage them to order more often). In this way, digital ordering isn’t just a convenience; it’s an important customer experience management tool.
The question isn’t either/or; for QSRs hoping to stay competitive against their bigger competitors, both ordering options are necessary. There’s no other way to create the convenient and efficient customer experiences that modern shoppers expect.
Make Digital Ordering Easy for Customers
Both traditional online ordering and mobile ordering apps have their place in the modern customer experience. And with demand for remote ordering options higher than it’s ever been, it’s the perfect time for QSRs to jump on board.
Solutions like Poppinpay give QSRs an easy way to enable end-to-end digital ordering for customers. Everything is done through your existing Square ecosystem. Aside from being a valuable tool for customer outreach during pandemic times, mobile ordering is a great way to prepare your company for the future. Even after the need for social distancing subsides, customers will still crave the simplicity and ease of online ordering tools. QSRs should take this opportunity to get these systems established and create a variety of ordering options that suit each customer’s needs.